For years now, third wave feminists have advocated for women to come up the ranks and take up jobs that society has queerly attributed only to the male gender. In a study conducted by Boston University, a riddle was solved by two groups—197 psychology students from the university and 103 children aged between 7 & 17. The riddle goes as follows: A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital; just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!” How is that possible? Considering that the answer was rather simple — the surgeon being his mother — it was shocking how only a minority could answer it correctly. The idea of certain professions being gender-specific is so deep rooted in our minds that a phrase like a ‘woman surgeon’ or a ‘woman entrepreneur’ for that matter, comes as a surprise to many. The fact that these notions are still prevalent in the modern society, emphasizes the continuing social bias against women.
Despite being pushed down by several factors including the lack of family support, there has been an upsurge in the number of female entrepreneurs around the world. However, several sections of the society have been screaming blue murder over the retreating moral values and how the modern woman is shadowing away from her responsibilities as a homemaker. Mrs. Poly Patnaik, the founder of Odisha’s first day boarding institution, believes that women have a certain kind of strength inside them that allows them to adjust anywhere. It’s not that men do not work hard but the ability of women to keep their temperament under check is something that comes naturally. Their patience to work things out without losing their temper makes them different, and gives them a better opportunity to balance both their personal and work space. Though family support was never a problem, given that she was the youngest in her family with no liabilities and had a very supportive husband, she has had to face a lot of hurdles from other quarters. It is interesting to note that Mother’s Public School started out in the 90s, as ‘Prakrit’ with only 17 students in the very first batch. Now, the school boasts of over 2000 students, and what started out with thatched huts now spreads over a sprawling campus and is one of the most sought after schools in town. Talking about the growing state of crime against women, in the country and otherwise, she shared a few incidents from her past, where despite belonging to the upper echelons of the society, she was subjected to misogyny and tainted looks. With all the talk of feminism and women empowerment finding an audience willing to propagate the ideas, there also has been an anti-men philosophy that has found takers for itself. Though unspoken, crime against men is a fact. Some women have been taking advantage of the new found freedom and women friendly laws that give them immunity owing to their gender. While feminism was all about the equality between the sexes, some radicals have taken it to another level wherein women are perceived to be superior and should be treated likewise. So, does it have anything to do with centuries of suppression at the hands of men? Mrs. Patnaik has a different take on the subject. She says, “The hunger for power can make anybody blind. It doesn’t have anything to do with your gender. Irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman, you begin to think that you can push others below you. And that’s exactly what has happened, as some of these women have found power at their disposal and exploited the loopholes in the system.” A recipient of the National Award to Teachers in 2012, by the President of India, one would think that there isn’t much left to achieve for this woman of steel. However, she plans to give shape to her unique idea of having a retirement home and a school in the same campus, where retired parents get an opportunity to break away from their greatest fear – solitude ! “I got this idea after coming across several old couples who are struggling to find a purpose in life, post retirement. Their children, most of whom live abroad are engrossed in their own world. Having the retirement home next to the school, will not only keep these senior citizens occupied with the school kids but would also take care of the fooding requirement of them all, which is equally vital.” She has already built a legacy for herself which is also acknowledged by her proud daughter-in-law, Minati, who now looks into the administration of the institution. “She is certainly an inspiration. The way she has carried herself over the years and followed her passion like the only thing that she has always wanted to do, I don’t believe that I can even remotely come close. I keep trying to learn from her every day, but then, there’s only so much that I can” , shares Minati. ❏